November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month (NEAM), presenting an opportunity to highlight one of the most common, but often misunderstood, neurological disorders — as well as the digital accessibility responsibility to make websites safer for people with epilepsy.
What is epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a chronic condition of the brain, affecting millions of people globally, characterized by recurrent seizures. It’s not contagious and can often be treated, but there is not a known cure currently.
What causes epilepsy?
According to the World Health Organization, six out of 10 people with epilepsy have idiopathic epilepsy, which has no known cause. Secondary epilepsy (or symptomatic epilepsy), can be caused a number of ways, such as: brain or head injuries, brain damage before or during birth, congenital or genetic conditions, strokes, certain infections, and brain tumors.
Some facts about epilepsy, by the numbers
The Epilepsy Foundation offers these key numbers. These are copied verbatim, as they’re in “Tweet-size bites” to get people talking about epilepsy. Please feel free to share.
- 65 million: Number of people around the world who have epilepsy.
- 4 million: Number of people in the United States who have epilepsy.
- 1 in 26 people in the United States will develop epilepsy at some point in their lifetime.
- Between 4 and 10 out of 1,000: Number of people on earth who live with active seizures at any one time.
- 150,000: Number of new cases of epilepsy in the United States each year.
- One-third: Number of people with epilepsy who live with uncontrollable seizures because no available treatment works for them.
- 6 out of 10: Number of people where the cause is unknown.
To add more perspective to these numbers, consider that more people have epilepsy than the combined total of people with autism spectrum disorders, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and cerebral palsy.
Digital accessibility and seizures
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, which are the most-accepted digital accessibility standards, specify that content cannot be designed in a way that is known to cause seizures. While anyone can have a seizure at any time, there are some known triggers that must be avoided.
WCAG checkpoint 2.3.1 recommends the three flashes or below threshold. This means a web page shouldn’t contain “any content that flashes more than three times in any one second period, or the flash is below the general flash and red flash thresholds.” A red flash means it includes a saturated red color, and this is important because intense red can amplify the effect of a flash and potentially trigger a reaction.
If a page contains any moving, blinking, or scrolling content that lasts more than five seconds, there must also be a way to pause the motion or hide it.
Read more about photosensitivity and seizures.
Make sure your website is accessible to people with epilepsy
Thorough and regular accessibility testing, like our four-point hybrid testing, can help ensure that your website is safer to use for people with epilepsy. Talk to us to get started and learn about all the ways we can help you achieve, maintain, and prove digital compliance.